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Our Texas Introduces Russian Culture to the Houston Community

By Pamela Sosnowski

Houston seems like an unlikely city to find a Russian cultural center, but that's exactly where you'll find Our Texas, a nonprofit formed in 2003 to help promote the work of local Russian purveyors of the arts. The name pays homage to the state's official song, "Texas, Our Texas" and demonstrates that the Lone Star state is a warm and welcoming place to live, even for those from a very different climate.

"There are so many different cultures and traditions that make up the culture of Texas," Sophia Grinblat, the center's executive director said. "Our Russian and Eastern European community, although small, is vibrant and brings with it a rich tradition of art, music, dance, and history. Enriching the culture of Texas enables us to have interesting experiences by learning new things, trying new foods, seeing new forms of art, and more!"

Just this year alone, Our Texas has hosted a spring pop-up market featuring handmade Russian goods and food, a holiday bazaar, a circus show, and several art exhibitions. The facility houses a 600 square foot hall featuring a professional sound and light system, baby piano and wings that seats up to 65 people. Located conveniently between West University and the Museum District, the cultural center is right at home in a neighborhood known for local art lovers.

Sophia Grinblat

Grinbalt relocated to Houston from Russia in 1990 and quickly fell in love with the state as well as supporting the local Russian community. While working as the editor of the city's Russian language newspaper, also called Our Texas, she realized that many artists in the area were not well-known to the city's residents, and was inspired to form a Russian cultural center, a place where the Texas community could get introduced to Russian culture. Most of the board of directors are also Russian immigrants that have adopted Texas as their home.

"We celebrate and promote Russian cultural awareness for the enrichment of the Texas community," she said.

In addition to hosting concerts, film screenings, theater performances and other events, Our Texas teaches Russian to students of all ages. The Russian School for Kids meets on Saturdays and teaches children ages two through eight the Russian alphabet, language development, and writing and reading skills. Russian for Adults is broken out into several class levels from beginner to advanced and builds speaking, reading and writing proficiency in the language. The center is also hosting lessons in Argentine Tango and Qi Gong, the ancient Chinese exercise.

Our Texas also offers four hour guided tours of various Houston neighborhoods and attractions. A guide from Our Texas can meet someone at the airport, and conduct a tour of Houston, Galveston, the Space Center, and more. The cultural center representative will also provide transportation to a hotel and can make travel recommendations.

Upcoming events include a children's drawings exhibit and art exhibition by Azerbaijani artist Makhmud Makhmudzade. Grinbald wants the Houston community to know that all are welcome to see what Our Texas has to offer.

"We believe that a community is enriched by diverse cultural contribution," she said. "Our center is open to everybody and we are happy to see visitors from different states and even different countries."

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